Posts Tagged With: Dodgy roads

Day 72/164: Limatambo to Cusco – 76km

1,500 meters climbing, 950 down.

During the night it poured, and that small omission I made yesterday with clipping the tent? Well, the whole floor of the tent got soaked along with most of my gear 😦 😦 :(. Thankfully not my electronics as they were safely in my bag, but I use a packing cell of clothes as a pillow, so I am not sure if I will have anything to wear in Cusco!

I wrapped everything that was wet in black plastic bags, and will deal with it in Cusco!  I said goodbye at breakfast to those who are leaving, in case I don’t get to see them again.

I set off from camp thinking to myself “Only 76 kilometres standing between me and three rest days!”. The first five kilometres was pretty tough as the gradient was quite steep, thankfully it improved. I caught up with Michelle at about 10 kilometres and rode with her. Luckily there were some parts of the hill that were pretty reasonable riding.

 A view of Limbatamo and yesterday's valley that we pedalled up (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A view of Limatambo and yesterday’s valley that we pedalled up (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

I had thought the main hill was 20 kilometres, we passed Sue and she thought it was 15 kilometres, which would have been great as we were nearly at 15 kilometres. We were all wrong: it was actually 25 kilometres.

Finally we got to the top and Michelle yells out “Yay!”. I try to yell as well but I don’t have any spare breathe, oops my asthma is worse than I thought. I used the reliever a couple of times, and then it was downhill to lunch.

The lunch truck party, playing oldies on the stereo (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

The lunch truck party, playing oldies on the stereo (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

After lunch I rode with Michelle and Tony, only 36 kilometres to go! There was a bit of a headwind and some more hills but the thought of getting to the hotel and a warm shower kept us going.

Up the hill for the final climb and down on the other side. Our first view of the main part of Cusco. The red earth, tile roofs and brown bricks make for a drab scene (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Up the hill for the final climb and down on the other side. Our first view of the main part of Cusco. The red earth, tile roofs and brown bricks make for a drab scene (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

At 8 kilometres out, we were on the outskirts of town, it was dirty rubbish bags, mangy dogs, mud, buses, taxi vans, pot holes, gravel and a steep gradient. Once we got to the city, getting to the hotel was chaos –  the traffic was everywhere.

Trying to manage the traffic, and look out for flags and potholes was very challenging. I was lucky there were three of us navigating, as I would have got lost if I had been on my own. Finally we got to the hotel, to my amazement in one piece.

Getting through Cusco to our hotel was a bit of a challenge. Lots of turns combined with steep, rough cobbled streets made it exciting. One of the streets had a vegetable market. It made for lots of dodging bodies and produce (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Getting through Cusco to our hotel was a bit of a challenge. Lots of turns combined with steep, rough cobbled streets made it exciting. One of the streets had a vegetable market. It made for lots of dodging bodies and produce (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

We're nearing the hotel. Here's the Mercado San Pedro (Market) (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Nearing the hotel. Here’s the Mercado San Pedro (Market) (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

We are staying at Hotel Garcilaso in Cusco for three days 🙂 🙂 :).The hotel is old but situated right in the middle of the tourist hub. The staff are very helpful and friendly. Like a number of the riders I am not in the best shape, I think it’s a case of being exhausted. I have a burnt and bleeding lip, pressure areas on the butt, gastro, asthma, altitude breathlessness, and an annoying cough, plus my neck has frozen on the left side. I think the three day’s rest has come just in time.

Grant – the rider I was concerned about the other day – went to a private clinic and is on penicillin injections for a chest infection. Other riders have a mixture of problems.

I got changed, got some water etc. I had dinner with Tony and Michelle at a nice restaurant (the name escapes me) to celebrate them having finished the section, and completed all of it! I am also feeling pretty pleased to have completed all of it. I had filet mignon, fettucine, fresh salad, and a glass of red wine. Then back to the hotel to bed.

Yay, no 5am start tomorrow or the next two days.

 

We made it! Park the bikes, unload and shower, and it's off down the street for some grub. This is the Plaza San Francisco (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

We made it! Park the bikes, unload and shower, and it’s off down the street for some grub. This is the Plaza San Francisco (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 61/164: Pucusana to Cerro Azul – 117km

1,400 meters of climbing and 1,425 down. Including a 30 k dirt road.

The first part of the ride was pretty flat and fast going. I was getting up to 34 to 35 kilometre per hour on the straights and more going down the hills. I broke my speed limit, which I have not managed to break in 3 years, it was 56.8 now it is 58.7(no sniggers all you speedsters).

All good things come to an end: we came to the 30 kilometre dirt road. The 10 kilometres before lunch were pretty tough going, about 6.5 to 7 kilometres with rocks which were slippery. I was calculating how long this was going to take if it was all uphill.

At the lunch truck at 50 kilometres I did not stop for long, as I got cold very quickly once I had stopped. After lunch we did 2 kilometres up, and then yay it was downhill the rest of the 30 kilometres.

I am getting more confident going downhill, but was certainly shaken about by the rocks as I have no suspension on my bike. I nearly came off 3 times when I hit deep sand, but managed to stay on.

Once at the bottom we were onto paved roads again, but with lots of uneven surfaces. There were lots of carts laden up with maize or wood, with about four donkeys pulling each cart.

On the road to Cerro Azul

On the road to Cerro Azul

There are dogs of every make and description and ancestry here, from Great Danes, Dalmatians to Chihuahuas. We came round a corner and there was a dog in the middle of the road on its back, with its legs sticking up into the air!  Oh no not another dead dog! But no, it was just having a nap and suddenly jumped up, stretched, and wandered off.

The hotel we are staying (Hospedaje Espana) is a pretty basic hostel, but it has showers (cold water), cold beer, and the place we are staying is a very pretty little port. I went for a walk along the pier and the beach front.

For dinner was beef stew, rice and vegetable mix.

Donkey self feeder

Donkey self feeder

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 57/164: Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay – 126km

Climbing 1,715 meters and down 1,415

There was a dog barking most of the night – protecting his territory from the invaders – so I only slept in patches. There is dust over and in everything. I shook out the tent and sleeping bed as best as I could. I am not keen on beach camping again. No doubt we will though at sometime in this tour.

Another 3 kilometre dirt track back to the highway, then deserts, dust, heat, headwind (Groundhog Day! Again!). This time to add a bit of interest, and to miss another crazy town, we did a two kilometre off road stretch on dirt, through where the locals dump their rubbish.

Making my way through the rubbish on the backroad from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Making my way through the rubbish on the back road from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Every day it starts off overcast and the cloud suddenly lifts at about 11:30am, then the temperature suddenly can shoot up over 10 degrees. It is also when the wind really picks up.

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Not much to say about the riding today as it was pretty similar to the last few days. There was one uphill that went on and on, every time I thought I was getting to the top I wasn’t. When I finally got to the top I was hoping for a nice downhill, but we had another few kilometres of a slightly up gradient, then finally a couple of kilometres down.

Tonight we are staying at a national park. While riding I was trying to remind myself that while the images this is invoking are images of national parks in NZ, this may very well be a national park of sand!

We get to the turn off, according to our notes it is meant to be about 3 kilometres up a dirt road to camp!
It’s not – it is 6.5 kilometres and a lot of it not rideable due to the streams of cars coming down, and the soft sand. The final kilometre is down a steep track into the valley we are staying.

I arrive feeling grumpy – no showers; toilets have no running water, just a hole in ground with a seat; the whiteboard says watch out for snakes and scorpions, don’t leave your tent or bag open! Eeeekkkk! And no beer!

About 11 riders are going into Lima a day early to get an additional rest day (and miss the 50 plus kilometre convoy tomorrow morning). Once I put up my tent, wiped the tent, my sleeping bag and mat, and everything else, with wet wipes, and had a wet wipe wash I was feeling a lot better.

The national park is not forest, but it has grass and shrubs and trees further up the hills. It gets cold quite quickly once the sun goes. It is 4:30pm, and I already have a thick jacket and a hat on. I am trying not to get paranoid about snakes. I had an email from Shellbe who is currently volunteering in Sri Lanka – they have snakes slithering around the streets!

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At the riders meeting we get an update on Phil – yay he has been discharged from hospital and is staying in Lima for a few days. However the family have asked that we don’t visit as he is still a bit confused due to the head injury. We are sorry we won’t get to see him but a number of us have already decided to visit him in New Zealand in a few months, and hopefully organize a short bike ride with him.

Tomorrow we have a 50 to 60 kilometre convoy – the distance is not finalized yet.

Lima has 9 million people and is no more cyclist friendly that anywhere else in Peru. We are asked if any of us want to go in the lunch truck, and are told there is a cut off to be at the convoy  point. Given that there is only 1,160 meters to climb in the whole day, I am confident I can make it to the convey start before the cut off.

The camp is really quiet because of riders who have left the tour, and those who have gone into Lima early.

Thinking about Peru, I have been a bit harsh, there are some places I would come back to: Pacasmayo where we had the two rest days, and the town the next day Huanchaco.

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 56/164: La Gramita to Bermejo Beach – 125km

1,925 meters up and 1,925 meters down

Tonight we are camping again, on the white board it says “Beach camping” which sounds quite pleasant.

When our alarms go at 5am the lights are not working in the room, so out come the headlights again. Thankfully about 10 minutes later the lights come on.  We are not having breakfast in the restaurant this morning, the TDA staff have set up breakfast outside by the truck thankfully, as with the speed of the service yesterday we would still have been here mid-morning.

To get back to the main road we have to go 3 kilometres back up the dirt road, then off again through endless desert, sandhills, rock mountains and the occasional shacks at the side of the road. We are following the coast and get some glimpses of it. Mostly the riding is rolling hills, with a few reasonable ups followed by some good downs.

There are a number of chicken farms along the way, huge big long structures with white roofs to reflect the sun. Apparently they get the sea water from under the sand, and the sand filters the salt out of it.

The road shoulder is really shitty to ride on. Some of the day we again have our own not quite finished highway, which is great. The rest of the day we are trying to share with the traffic. The truck drivers are really good, they toot hello as they pass us and go over to the other lane whenever they can, or honk loudly if there is no room and we need to go onto the shoulder. The buses give us no space, regardless of whether they could move into the other lane or not, and the cars and taxi honk in an unfriendly way as they race past.

There is still rubbish, other debris and a distressing number of dead animals littering the shoulder. So far Peru is the bottom on my list of places I would come back to.

The desert any day so far in Peru

The desert any day so far in Peru

I got to 123 kilometres and the turn off was another dirt road. This one was a most delightful mixture (not) of corrugated surface, soft sand that I can’t ride in, or slippery rocks.

The “Beach camp” is not as pleasant as it sounded. It is now referred to by the riders as “Dust camp”. Within 5 minutes of the tent being up, even with the fly shut, there is a layer of dust over everything. It gets into everything.

A dusty sort of campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A dusty sort of campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Thankfully the locals have put together an impromptu shop and are selling snacks and cold beer.  The Peruvians, as well as having a dislike of cyclists, also see tourists as a chance to charge outrageous prices (when there are no alternative options). I pay a premium price for a beer and then I get no change – so I am now paying nearly double the usual rate. The vendor advises he can’t make the change from the note I have given him, and I have no other smaller change. Whilst I don’t know a lot of Spanish his message is clear enough – either pay this outrageous amount or go without. With a throat full of sand, I pay.

Jackie was meant to be leaving tomorrow but she has decided to go a day early. One of the other riders who is also leaving in Lima decides to go as well – neither of them are keen to have dust through everything they own as their final trip experience.

We say good bye to Australian Jacqui (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We say good bye to Australian Jacqui (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

One of the locals has agreed for a price to take them to Lima but after keeping them waiting for nearly 2 hours, he decides he wants more, and then decides not to take them at all. Cristano manages to organize another option, this all takes place over a number of hours. Then the car finally arrives but can’t fit the bike boxes on so needs to go off and get rope. By this time one of the other riders decides to go to Lima a couple of days early also. They finally set off with the Jackie’s bike box on top of the car, Peter is in Lima for a few days so will get his off the TDA truck there. They did get there all safely, bike box included.

Dinner that night was really nice: kebabs, hot potato salad, and chicken.

The view from Sue's tent (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The view from Sue’s tent (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 48/164: Pasabar to Chiclayo – 113km

Up 700 meters, down 775 meters.

Not such a good sleep last night – just because a weird bunch of Lycra clad cyclists go to bed at 7pm does not mean the locals do. Quite a lot of talking and laughing, thankfully I had the iPod and ears muffs!

The soccer field has overhead lights, and these were on for a while, and then came back on at 5am.

When one of the riders woke up it was so light they thought they had overslept. Being so close to the equator there is not much time from dark to light in the morning, and light to dark at night. So usually we are getting up in the dark and going to bed in the dark.

As I don’t have my keys to lose every day I instead play “hunt for my overhead light” – if only I would put it in the same place each day! If I forget until it is dark more challenge is added to this by having to crawl around inside the tent going through everything with the light from the cell phone. My aim from now on is to put it in my toilet bag every morning (which I plan to do as soon as I find it).

To add variety today we had a team challenge, we had to get into a team of 4 and guess how long it will take to ride 25 kilometres-ish (maybe slightly more or less) without knowing the road and how much of today’s 700 meters climb is in it. I am in a combined NZ/OZ team called the Anzac biscuits. You can over estimate your time, but if you underestimate you’re out, and it’s based on the time that the last rider in the team crosses the line.  Given that we don’t know the gradient we are cautious and overestimate based on the expected speed of the slowest rider in the team (me).

It is for fun and there is no prize, but some of the teams are deadly serious and are warming up and have stripped everything off their bike. I considered if I should take off my panniers, but I already spend a few minutes each day trying to close my daily bag so that’s not an option anyway.

There was less gradient than we expected so we come in under our time. Going up the hill to the end I was feeling the pressure, was huffing and puffing and pushing as fast as I could. My team could hear me behind them, thankfully no one in my team was yelling at me to hurry up.

One of the teams had a rider who is also not great on hills who thought he was going to throw up, and in another team one of the riders was screaming and yelling at his team. Anyone would have thought there was serious prize money at stake.

The AZAC biscuits: Peter and me from New Zealand, Jackie and Brett from Australia

The ANZAC biscuits: L-R: Brett and Jackie from Australia, Peter and me from New Zealand

With this behind me, I set off for the rest of the ride. There were some ruins along the way, pyramids in Tucane built out of sandstone, that I stopped to have a look at. I need to google some info about them as everything I have seen written was in Spanish.

Me in front of the pyramids

Me in front of the pyramids

The pre Incan pyramids (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The pre Incan pyramids (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Detail of the Pre Incan pyramid (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Detail of the Pre Incan pyramid (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The road is not good to ride on, the shoulder has numerous pot holes but the road has trucks, buses and Tuk Tuks everywhere. Even when you are on the shoulder they blare their horns at you. They are much more aggressive than Colombia and  Ecuador, with us and with each other. They are also less kind to animals, and there is a distressing amount of animal carnage at the roadside. Also distressing are the vultures feasting. I can just imagine vultures as the birds in the horror movie (called I think Birds). There is also rubbish everywhere again.

Because of the team challenge and the rest of the day not being a race day, most of the riders are riding in groups. The group I was with got stopped and questioned by the Policia – an interesting conversation when they did not speak English and none of us spoke Spanish. We showed them on our notes where we were going, they took photos of us and – we thought – drove off happily.

However about 5 kilometres up the road along came 3 Policia on motorcycles with their sirens going and one headed over to us. Once again a challenging conversation, and he did not seem very happy with us. We got an escort for the remaining 16 kilometres to camp. It was a bit scary as he seemed really grumpy and he had a gun. It was useful though in controlling the traffic, and he stopped the traffic at two intersections so we could go across. However we were very relieved when we got to camp to see Cristiano. We left Cristiano to deal with him and went thankfully inside the camp.

Cristiano said after being asked for his documentation and having his photo taken, the cop said he had been told to ensure we got safely to camp – by it turns out the cops in the car who had stopped us.

The place we are staying has rooms at a reasonable price so a lot of the riders got one. Nice to have a room to myself, and not have to pack up the tent in the morning, and be able to get dressed standing. As it turns out also thankfully to stop being savaged by bugs. I put two types of spray on for dinner and still got bitten. In the morning I got bitten through my bike shorts and riding top as well.

This place is meant to have wifi but like the place in Las Lomas I could not get onto it. So rather than get frustrated I decided to turn the iPad off. Hopefully the hotel for the rest day will have good wifi.

I am looking forward to the rest day. Even though the days have been shorter and not much climbing, I have never ridden 7 days in a row before, and the legs are getting weary.

Dinner was goat curry, couscous, coleslaw.

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 46/164: Las Lomas to Chulucanas – 84km (or not!)

Up 500 meters, down 645 meters.

We were going to be bush camping (no running water, shower or toilets) on a soccer field in Chulucanas. The soccer fields here are dry patches of dirt, so with the short day we weren’t motivated to rush to camp. I rode with Jackie for the day.

There are so many dogs here, most places seem to have at least two, plus there are strays in between towns, scavenging through the rubbish that is dumped there. I assume they are strays as they look underfed. A number of the dogs out the front of houses also look like they could do with a few good meals.

The road is full of tuk tuks, and carts and horses, if it wasn’t for the occasional motorbike and car you could easily think it was a 100 years ago.

We came to a town called Tambo Grande, it was crazy – tuk tuks darting everywhere, people, roadworks, unpaved roads, and traffic shooting out from everywhere, with very little – if any – regard for the traffic rules.

Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Not surprisingly in the chaos Jackie and I missed a flag at a roundabout. Luckily Jackie realized pretty quickly, and we made our way back again to the roundabout and got back onto the right road. A couple of quite aggressive dogs rushed, out but thankfully a local on a motorbike cut them off.

Turning left at the Farmers Statue  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Turning left at the Farmers Statue (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We stopped for a drink and less than 5 kilometres later we were at the lunch truck at 9:15 am! The first riders were through before 8am. Today is going to be even shorter than planned as we are not staying at the soccer field any more, we are now stopping at 76 kilometres, at a proper campsite with showers/ toilets, a restaurant, and grass rather than dirt :D.

After lunch the road was basically flat, and before lunch there was not much climbing. The climbing must be between the 76km and the 85km we were meant to be doing today.

We came across a dip in the road with water in it, but thankfully we had seen locals going off road on a dirt road around it, as it looked pretty deep. There were two more dips like this, one with an off road option while the other looked really shallow. Luckily Jackie rode right to the very left of it and I followed her – four riders who went through the middle came off their bikes as it was slimy and slippery.

We went through a few quiet sleepy towns where even the dogs did not raise their heads from their dozing as we went through. Then we came to another crazy busy town, once again tuk tuks everywhere.

At the outskirts we came across one of the riders – Chris – whose chain had got caught in his cassette. We could not get it out so suggested that he and his bike got in a Tuk tuk and followed us to camp. The only problem is we did not know the name of the camp, or exactly how far it was, as we were originally going to be biking 83 kilometres and staying on a dirt soccer field, however Cristiano has found a better option at 76 kilometres yay! So off we went with Chris holding onto his bike. Thankfully it was only a few kilometres.

We got to camp, it was great – grass, a large covered restaurant area, and a pool. Certainly different than what we had been expecting (aka dreading).

My bike has started to make worrying noises and is getting harder to shift gears, so it went to bike clinic today and had something done with a bearing, and the gears adjusted, plus a check over, so hopefully it will not be as noisy. Jackie said she did not have to check if I was behind her, she could hear me!

We have had a change of route, instead of going through the mountains in Peru we are going to follow the coast. This is because there are no suitable places to camp for such a large group in the mountains, even bush camping. I am secretly quite delighted as I was not looking forward to altitude problems again. Another positive is we also pick up another rest day in Pacasmayo at the end of 7 days riding by the Pacific Ocean 😀

Dinner was pork stew, Israel couscous, and beans.

Tuk Tuk birthing station in Tampo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tuk Tuk birthing station in Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 41/164: Yantzaza to Loja – 104km

2,732 up and 1,537 down . 104 k

I enjoyed getting up and not having to get dressed in the tent.

Out of the past 6 riding days I have ridden 3 full days, but today I decided with a 2,732 metre climb that I was only going to ride to lunch, which was about 60 kilometres. The first 40 kilometres were rolling hills. I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. Two riders, Jos and Jason, who are faster than me came past and I decided I was going to stay with them till 25 kilometres. A few times they got away on me, but I managed to catch up each time.

At 25.7 kilometres I let them go, caught my breath, had a drink and carried on. At 40 kilometres we started to climb. When I got to lunch I decided I had done enough and was going to stick with my plan to stop there. I am really pleased I did, as the climb went on for another 28 kilometres. It was steep, it got overcast, then it got misty, then it poured. A couple of the riders flagged down a ute for lift. Others arrived at the hotel wet and cold. A number of the riders were chased by aggressive dogs. One was bitten, and one had her saddle bag attacked!

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

There were some treacherous bits on the downhill, and one bit where the road dropped at one point about a foot. Sadly one of the riders – Phil from NZ – came off his bike here at speed. Thankfully one of the other riders was just behind him and made sure Phil was not moved, and organized the ambulance and contacted TDA staff etc. Phil has facial fractures and some swelling on the brain, and had to have burr holes (small drill holes into his skull) to relieve the pressure.

Phil’s condition was listed as serious but stable. Thankfully Loja, the town we were going to, was only about 10 kilometres away and has a pretty good hospital with a neurosurgeon etc. As you would expect, we were all pretty shocked and subdued, but relieved that it looked pretty definite that Phil will make a full recovery. However we are thinking that sadly it is unlikely that he be re-joining us on this tour. Phil is well liked and well known for wearing brightly coloured bike clothing, including stripy socks and a hats. Just this morning we had had photo taken as we were both wearing our NZ riding tops (Editor’s note: unfortunately the photos were of terrible quality due to “it being misty”, but luckily I managed to at least get a pic of Phil from Sue’s blog).

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops.

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

In the town where we are staying, it is the night of the annual religious pilgrimage where locals walk 70 kilometres carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage has gone on for over two centuries. When they get here they will gather in the Centre Plaza to have speeches, fireworks and other celebrations, and a church service tomorrow.

The first thing when I got to the hotel was to find my daily bag which had been unloaded from the truck but was missing in action. Luckily I located it. For some reason the hotel staff had put my bag and 3 other riders bags separately in a different space – they must not have realised how many bags were being off loaded and when they realised they would not all fit in the original space they put the others somewhere else.

Next step was a shower and to get my laundry sorted, and then a snack and a beer. The laundry place a couple of blocks away is much cheaper than the hotel, and assured us our laundry would be back tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying at is called The Howard Johnson Hotel, which is part of a chain internationally, but is not one that is in NZ. It’s very nice, but the service is patchy, although friendly. We have a rest day tomorrow 😀

Heading off to have dinner with Sue and Jackie (Oz), we realised when we tried to get a taxi that they were all full of locals heading off to the square for the festivities. We did manage to flag one down eventually and went in search of a restaurant that served wine. A lot of the smaller places just serve food. We all had fillet mignon which was nice but I did not manage to convey “rare” successfully. The desert menu looked tempting but it turned out all but one of the deserts were not available.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and had desert in the hotel restaurant. They served the most amazingly delicious chocolate soufflé . Then off to bed, with no further news re Phil.

Tomorrow the plan is to have a look around the town, and buy more riding glasses. I lost a pair a few days ago, and the next day broke my spare pair.

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 37/164: Puyo to Macas (or not!)

The day sounded great 130 kilometres: 1,650 metres of climbing and 1,545 downhill, with mostly rolling hills rather than big climbs. Sue said the weather forecast was for no rain and a temp of 16 degrees which sounded good. Finally fingers crossed I am over the gastro :D. I set off from camp with the plan to take it easy and ride the whole day. There are 6 riders in the trucks due to gastro, and 2 in varying stages of gastro riding.

The dogs in Ecuador seem a bit more aggressive than Colombia, and at about 15 kilometres I had two come running off a property and take off after me. Luckily I was on a downhill and pedalled as fast as I could! Even so I felt the breath of one of them on my calf before I finally pulled away!

The riding was good, hills but up and down. Every now and then you would come to a random unpaved section. One of the riders hit an unpaved section unexpectedly and had to be picked up by the dinner truck as they buckled their wheel when they hit it.

As I was riding along I was thinking about getting to camp that night where we were told we had wifi. It’s my daughter Lizzy’s 26th birthday today (in NZ which is a day ahead), hopefully I can skype but if not at least leave a video Skype message and text.

The view is amazing, riding down a road whilst the Amazon jungle stretches into the distance on either side of you. It’s a “Pinch myself! am I really here!?” moment. How lucky am I to experience this.

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the sign that we had ridden 64 kilometres so only 11 kilometres to lunch and halfway through the ride. I’m feeling good. I come around a corner and there is bridge and halfway over it I see the dinner truck parked next to the lunch truck and a number of riders clustered around it. Oh no what’s happened? Hope no one is hurt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s on that bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the buses with Policia and Military marking on the sides. There are protestors between here and the planned camp. We are not allowed to go any further. The Policia and military have guns and riot gear. The protestors are not from the local villages, they are from around the country and are by all accounts pretty staunch. They are prepared to fight for the cause. Our sympathies are with them, the last thing any country needs is a president elected indefinitely (which is what the current president wants to bring into law). Cristinao (I have been spelling it wrong with a h) went and spoke to the Policia to see if we can get through but no! Not even locals are allowed to get through to their homes.

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are now at a campsite at 65 kilometres waiting to see what happens overnight! Hopefully we can get through tomorrow, if not we go back to Puyo. However there is no phone coverage and no wifi so no birthday message to Lizzy :(. I had a little cry and sleep in my tent, I know she will understand but still feels bad, especially when I thought I had sorted.

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue's blog)

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue’s blog)

The owner of the camp site was carrying his pet anaconda around for people to have photos with, luckily he did not come anywhere near me.

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I think the owner is very pleased to have us, he has set up a bar, organized a walking tour to a spot of tourist interest (did not catch what it was), and fishing and then for a price he will cook your fish for you. Totally different ethos than hosteria el piguali (which I guess is the difference between staff who not share in the profits vs the owner of a place). I was going to go for a swim in the river, then I saw the sign “River snakes”! No river swim for me.

At the riders meeting, we found out the plan at the moment is to continue tomorrow, to finish today’s ride and tomorrow’s ride as well! 171 kilometres, up 2,600 meters, down 2,250 meters.

Dinner tonight was stewed sausages, pasta and nice crunchy broccoli.

Rider's meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 27/164: Mocha to Sibundoy – 85km

2,146km down: 11,495km to go. Up 2,920 metres, down 1,500

We had to go on a road known in Colombia as the Trampoline of Death. It is a 70 kilometre dirt road, with slippery gravel, with some steep gradient. Most of the way it is only wide enough for one vehicle . There were places where there is a 400 foot sheer drop, with no barrier. When two vehicles meet going in different directions the smallest vehicle has to back backwards to where there is a space to pass. It was pretty scary watching some of the backing, especially when they were going back round a bend with a sheer drop.

No protection, a narrow track with long drop offs (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

No protection, a narrow track with long drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The first 15 kilometres of the ride was paved, then we got onto the Trampoline of Death and onto the slippery rock. My bike and tyres and I are not good on this stuff. I don’t know if it’s because I am not strong enough or lack confidence, or both, but I slip and slide all over the place. Going up a 15% gradient is one thing, but going up over slippery rocks and sliding adds another level! There seems to be more off road than was advertised on this trip so far, hopefully it is just this and the last section, as otherwise I would have bought a mountain bike!

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The road went on and on, up and up, you could see another 5 switchbacks above you, no matter how many you had done. We were told if we were not at the lunch truck by 1pm to hitch a lift. We had been walking for a while, and we stopped a ute with a family in it and Aussie Jackie went in that (Jackie went first as she had carbon cleats which are really hard to walk in). Jodi the sweep and I discussed vehicles that we would stop. We decided not the buses or vans, as they drove really fast and looked the most unsafe. Not a truck as there was only one lane, and having to back when two vehicles needed to pass each other. We thought a ute would be the best bet.

The first ute was a Red Cross vehicle, which did not stop or make eye contact. We think that must be protocol as Jodi said in South Africa they never stopped or made eye contact, ever.

The next vehicle was a ute which stopped for us. There were four locals in it, so I squeezed in the back seat, and Jodi went in the tray at the back with the two bikes. I was a bit concerned but she was happy, she said it was better than a lot of the vehicles she had been in in Africa.

The driver was safe (in my view). I think they were surveyors, as they had to stop a couple of times and one of them would jump out with a clip board and then jump back in a minute later. They dropped us off at the lunch truck, and were just about to drive off when they realized Jodi had left the sweep pack (mainly first aid) in the ute, and came running back with it.

On the road were a number of river crossings where the water was up to half a meter deep and sometimes running very fast! The river crossings were rocky and often had a sheer drop. The good thing is Colombians don’t seem to suffer from road rage and the backing up and pulling over etc was all done without any angst. There were a lot of crosses by the side of the road which I guess gives the road its name and reputation.

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We started across the road at 7:30 am. Even after the summit whenever the road went down it always then went up again. Four of the riders did not even start the day (one had gastro, the others weren’t keen on the road). I wanted to ride across it, as I was more worried about being in a truck, but relented and got in the lunch truck.

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue had got a lift part of the way up the hill with a guy in a cattle truck. To work his clutch he had a stick and piece of string, and a couple of times he had to get out and adjust something under the truck!

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

A couple of other riders took the truck from lunch and we picked up a couple more on the way down the hill. The lunch truck was packed. Halfway down the hill the lunch truck got a flat tyre – what a mission! We all had to get out, the wheels had to be blocked with boulders, and the spare had to be got down from the top of the truck. However to get the spare all the bikes had to be shifted and then shifted back. The whole thing took about an hour. By the time we got off the highway it was 5:30pm. As we got to the camp where we were staying three riders – who are really good riders – had just got there and they were stuffed!  I am pleased I made the decision to stop at lunch.

The campsite was quite small, a bit of grass at the back of a building, plus we could sleep inside on either level. Human nature being what it is, some riders had staked out large amounts of the building for themselves. Late comers ended up stacked alongside each other like sardines, on their sleeping mats in every nook and cranny.

I found a space under the eaves which was fine so long as I remembered not to sit up! There was no window so I was worried about being cold but it was warm enough, as I slept in my jacket, hat, and sleeping bag.

My sleeping space under the eaves

My sleeping space under the eaves

I was a bit worried about waking people up when I had to get up during the night, so I did not have anything to drink from when I got to camp and only had to get up twice, but was dehydrated in the morning so it was probably not the best idea. There was only one shower with cold water and a large queue, so day two with wet wipes instead of a shower.

Dinner was chicken, pasta and beans.

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 20/164: Anapoima to Prado – 146km

1,502 km down: 12,139 to go (1,200 metres up, 1,600 metres down today)

When I was putting my tent down I did not realise that but not only were there a couple of large ant mounds near the tent (which I had seen and kept away from) but there was also some netting above the tent and there were ants all over it. I must have brushed up against it, as I got ants all inside my riding shirt. The biting sort! Ouch! I quickly changed my shirt.

I set off feeling reasonably good, and aiming to ride the whole day. There were some rolling hills to begin. I stopped at 16 kilometres for a freshly squeezed orange juice. They squeeze it while you wait – 2000 pesos (approximately a dollar) for a glass.

Orange juice

Juice stop (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

At 16.9 kilometres I missed a turn – I’m not sure if there was a truck parked across the road or whether I just wasn’t paying attention. After 7 kilometres I realised I had gone the wrong way and back tracked, adding 14 kilometres.  I learned from my last trip not to try and work out (aka guess) how you could meet up with the right road again, as this led to the time I got really lost on my last trip but thankfully was saved by Bobby and her bright red sports car, who delivered me safely to camp.

The next bit was rolling hills on a back road through a village and farmland. Quite a lot of the road was gravel and bumpy and rocky.  Due to having made the wrong turn, I had the sweep behind me as I was now the last rider (two other riders also missed this turn but they are faster than me). We then came out to a main highway, after about 5 kilometres I had to go over an abandoned bridge, and then connect with another highway. It was really hot, with a headwind, and was hard going. By this stage I had done about 90 kilometres – but only 76 of the planned ride.

Luckily lunch was at 78 kilometres, a very welcome sight. Two of the other riders were stopping at lunch and taking the lunch truck back to camp. I considered stopping also as it was so hot! But I decided that I really wanted to ride the whole ride so I had something thing to eat and carried on. I had 67 kilometres to go – not including the 14 extra due to getting lost.

It was so hot it, was beating down and not a lot of shade. I saw the first couple of flags ok but then, would you believe it, I missed a turn again!!!! I have discovered my speedo is slightly out, as it is set it for the size of tyres I have but not the width/ thickness, so this is throwing the measurements out just enough to cause an issue – especially for with someone already challenged with directions.

I asked a couple of locals and they assured me I was going the correct way to Neiva – they were right, just not the way I should have been going. The road went on and on, and the heat just kept glaring down on me. It dawned on me that I was probably lost again especially as there was meant to be more downhill than uphill and I was mostly going up.

Over one of the many rivers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Over one of the many rivers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I went to a service station to buy water, and it is the first petrol station I have come across that only sells petrol. I decided to ring Christaino to see which direction I should go, as I was not sure where I had gone wrong .I could not believe it but my phone was nearly flat! It had been showing full charge that morning.

I rang Christiano but he could not hear me but said to text him., which I did but got no response . I was sitting there thinking “What next?” and thinking how I would love to see Bobby and her little red sports car, when I remembered that my son Daniel had kindly downloaded all the maps where I was going onto my phone and my iPad.

I had enough phone battery to get the map app up and it showed me where I was (thanks Dan xx). It also showed me that I was on my way to Saidane, which I was pretty sure from my notes was a town I needed to go through, but as my writing is not very legible even to me I was not 100% sure. Note to self: have better handwriting! Off I went and yay it was the right town and joy such joy there were flags!   🙂 🙂 🙂

I stopped, had some more water, and set off again. At this stage I had done 148 kilometres and still had 30 kilometres to go but at least I was on the right road.

And then there were road works! Thick, wet, dirt roads, hard to ride on, especially with tired legs. There was a water truck laying down more water. I was behind it so I was getting covered in mud as well. The water truck driver jumped off his truck, gave me water without any prompting from me, smiled, and drove off again. They have water here in plastic packets as well as in bottles, this was a plastic packet.

The road was going on and on and I was starting to worry that it would get dark before I got to camp. I decided I would make the call at the next town, and if I needed to I would catch a taxi to camp. 152 kilometres on the clock at this stage and then suddenly in front of me I see Christano and his partner Anna driving towards me in the ute 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiano had decided to come and find me and see if I was ok. The text I sent had not got through to his phone either. Turns out from where I had missed the flag I had done a bigger loop to Saidane than the way that was planned. I was very very pleased to see Christiano and Anna.

Back at camp I noticed there were a few mosquitos so plied bug spray liberally after my very cold shower. It did not help, I am covered in bites – most people are even those who don’t usually get bitten. It didn’t help that I had one in my tent for part of the night who waited until I went to sleep before feasting. I heard it at 2am and located it.  Now I am trying really hard not to itch, and taking antihistamine.

The view from Sue's tent at the campsite (Photo credit: SUe's blog)

The view from Sue’s tent at the camp site (Photo credit: SUe’s blog)

I plugged my phone into the charge bank when I got to camp, and then discovered a couple of hours later that the charge bank was totally flat. Either it is dead or more likely I forgot to check it was plugged in properly when I charged it in Bogota.

I got the phone charged just enough to text my daughter Kelly like I do every day when I get to camp. I must have accidentally pressed a button to ring her, as a few minutes later my phone told me I had a missed call. I tried to ring back (thinking she had rung me, and worried that there was something wrong) but the phone decided there was no service. I went up into the camp ground into the main building and charged the phone for 45 min. I text Kelly that I had service and she could ring me back, and then realised that it was me accidentally pressing ring to her, so she didn’t need to ring. I made sure I had enough battery to last the next day.

Dinner was pork stew, beans and plantain. Plantain is in the banana family, and depending on how you cook it, it is either all right or horrid. Boiled and mashed is nasty, but these were partly baked and ok.
I am not going to be a convert though.

One of the riders missed the turn for the camp and clocked up 200 kilometres today!

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments